FohBoh blogger Michael L. Atkinson’s post this week takes me back to the days of the dot-com bubble, when venture capitalists were funding iffy startups like there was no tomorrow – and for a huge number of them, there wasn’t. This time around, the investments are much smaller – many venture capitalists are making many investments of $100,000 to $250,000 in the latest social media ventures and the hottest new apps– but for restaurants the result is still a dizzying array of options, some of which are probably useful. But the vast majority are likely to prove useless and possibly obsolete by the time restaurant owners get a handle on what they do, he writes.
“With this level of innovation, no one can make a decision. Why would you, if a newer shiny penny is coming out every day, why choose?”
Restaurants clearly understand how some of the biggest social sites can work for – and against – their businesses. A recent survey done by restaurant equipment and supply vendor Tundra Specialties found that 43% of restaurant owners believe Yelp provides a forum for consumers to broadcast small slights and bad experiences, and 41% said Groupon’s daily deals do more harm than good because it trains consumers to become addicted to discounts. Meanwhile, more than half the respondents said purely social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and geo-location services including Foursquare, have an overall positive impact on the industry.
A number of big restaurant chains seem to have gotten the hang of social media for branding and marketing, according to the latest rankings from social marketing software firm Vitrue, which ranked Starbucks first on a list of 25 restaurant companies based on the number of times the company is mentioned on social media sites and blogs, and how often patrons check in on Foursquare and other location-based social services. Big restaurant companies that made the list have moved beyond using social media for branding and marketing and are figuring out new ways to use it to drive traffic and sales, Vitrue found.
As Atkinson points out on FohBoh, restaurateurs can probably ignore the vast majority of new apps and copycat social sites. But can they ignore social media completely? Not a great idea, writes Chef’s Corner blogger and Master Chef Tony Seta, whose latest post includes tips for restaurants looking to clear through the flood of options and craft workable social strategies that fit both their budget and personality. Seta’s tips don’t require big budgets, just a willingness to take the time to first listen to what your customers are saying about you in the social sphere, then respond to continue the dialogue and build on the relationship.
“The best social media plans are not necessarily those with the biggest budgets,” Seta writes. The best plans are those where the brand consistently engages with their entire community.”
Are you overwhelmed with options when it comes to social marketing? Where are you focusing your time and attention, and how is it working out? Tell us about it in the comments.